11 - A Night On The Town

Cataclysm showed her empty glass to the bartender and he grimaced as he lifted his bulk off the stool and plodded over. He took the glass and refilled it from the tap, leaving way too much head. He slammed the glass down, sloshing the beer out, and returned to his stool. She took a sip of the weak beer to wash down the stale pretzels. The bitter smell of the liquor briefly covered up the even ranker stench coming out of the bathroom behind her. She lowered the glass and looked over the dimly lit bar. The walls were marked with graffiti, the floor stained with booze and a little blood, and the windows were so thick with dust and smoke they barely let any light in at all. God she'd missed this place.

Leo's Bar wasn't technically in Maniacs territory, but a lot of the gang hung out here. She had been sitting at the bar for four hours now. People could see her and if someone wanted to come talk to her, he could sit nearby and not really be with her. It had seemed like a great idea but nobody had come over. They eyed her but that was all. She was careful not to nod at or greet anyone, not wanting to put anyone in an awkward position. If Zoe was still mad, then even acknowledging Cataclysm's presence could result in a beat down or worse. Cataclysm didn't know if they were mad at her or afraid of Zoe. Either way she was getting more depressed as time passed. She saw Tony Madness get up from his table and say good night to the others before heading out the door alone. Cataclysm decided it was time to get a little more aggressive so she finished the beer, put some cash on the bar to cover her tab and followed Tony out.

She knew where he lived and the route he'd probably be taking. She ducked into an alley and then cast her levitation spell. She shot through the maze of little streets, staying out of sight as best as someone trailing fire could, until she got ahead of Tony. She stayed in the shadows and watched him walk along the sidewalk towards her. He wasn't paying much attention to his surroundings. Nobody would be stupid enough to jump him, and anyone who did was in for a bad night.

As he got close, she called out softly, "Tony, come here."

He jumped and looked around, catching sight of her shadowy figure in the alley. "Who's that?" he asked.

"Come here," she said again.

Tony got suspicious and reached inside his coat. "Who is that? Come out of there."

"For fuck's sake," she sighed. It had been foolish to think he'd step into a dark street at the call of a stranger. She stepped out into the light.

When Tony saw who it was, he looked up and down the street quickly and then hurried into the alley. "The fuck?" he said. "I could get into real trouble being seen with you."

"I know. That's why I'm hiding in the shadows. Come on." She moved deeper into the alley but Tony hesitated. "What?" she said. "You think I'm going to jump you?"

He grimaced but followed her. She led him into a stinking, trash-filled courtyard where they could see each other in the bright moonlight. She sat down on a trash can and motioned for him to do the same. He didn't, opting instead to lean against a wall. He kept his hand just inside his jacket. "What do you want?" he asked.

"I just want to talk. Wanted to see how the Maniacs are doing."

"Fine. What do you care?"

Cataclysm got to her feet angrily. "Hey, everything I've ever done has been for the Maniacs."

"Is that why you left?"

"I didn't leave. I was kicked out, remember?"

He snorted. "Since when have you ever listened to Zoe? You sure left quick. You didn't even argue with her about it."

Cataclysm paused. He was right. She had thought about that since then. She had been tired and in a shitty mood but that wasn't the reason. She'd been hurt by how quickly everyone turned on her and knew that was part of it. But there was more. "I didn't want people to have to choose sides," she said. "If I'd had it out with Zoe right then, it would have split the gang."

He snorted again but relaxed and moved his hand away from the gun. "It's already done that," he said.

"What do you mean?"

"There's a lot of talk. Some people think you did the right thing. And a lot who think you didn't still think Zoe overreacted." Grudgingly he added, "You were good for the gang."

Cataclysm cocked her head. "What about you? Where do you stand?"

He looked away. "Frankly, I'm not sure. I think Zoe was right. You should have stayed in Maniac territory, not run off to defend the rich folks uptown. But...Look, I don't know how much good you did, but if the bugs hadn't been stopped there it would have been tough for us. For everyone. You...you thought you were doing the right thing, even though I don't think it was. We'd have been better off defending our own turf."

Cataclysm sat back down. "What about...everyone else? Where do they stand?"

"You mean Pyro?"

"That's not what I said," she snapped.

"Isn't it? You know, I have to ask myself why you're asking me this shit and not her."

Cataclysm didn't know what to say. Should she say it would hurt too much? She'd held fellow Maniacs as they bled to death in the street and not shed a tear, but Pyro doesn't return a text message and suddenly Cataclysm finds herself getting drunk in the dark and crying to shitty emo music. If Tony had told her to fuck off she could have handled it. But she couldn't face Pyro turning away again. Cataclysm settled for saying, "She's not talking to me."

"She's not talking to anyone," he said. "Lots of people have asked her how she feels about what happened and she just gets mad and walks away. She spends a lot of time alone. She does her bit, stands with us when we need her, but she's shut us out in every other way." He shook his head. "I don't know what her damage is but people are getting kind of sick of it."

Cataclysm couldn't talk right then and the silence between stretched out to the point it got uncomfortable. Tony studied her and then said, "If you're planning to move against Zoe, this is a bad time. For all of us."

Cataclysm forced herself back to the subject at hand. "I'm not," she said. "What do you mean a bad time?"

Tony studied her again and then shrugged. "No real big secret I guess. All the gangs are gearing up for something. Zoe's recruiting pretty hard and won't say why. So are all the gangs. We got in some kind of new weapons from Talos but Zoe won't let us open them. She just cackles and says they're for some special target." He shook his head. "Armored car maybe? Bank vault?"

"Capes?" Cataclysm offered.

"Yeah, I thought of that too."

Cataclysm shook her head. "Exactly the kind of flashy shit that just gets cops upset. I told her over and over."

"Yeah," Tony said. "Without you to argue with her she's gotten a little crazy, even for her. I don't know what she's pulling us into. It could be really good or really bad."

"What about the other gangs?"

He said, "Well, you heard about Zaretti, right?" Cataclysm nodded. Tony continued, "The Cobras are trying some kind of new steroid or something. We haven't tangled with them, but I've heard stories that the guys taking it get super strong and super crazy. And not in that good Maniac way. They've been beating up civilians, even their own guys. With Zaretti out of the picture they'll probably be disorganized, but I wonder if that will mean these berserk guys will be even more out of control.

"The Aces have gone real quiet. I hear they have some new leader, Ludwig or something like that. Nobody knows about him. He just seems to have popped in out of nowhere in the last few weeks. He's certainly not one of the lieutenants we know about it. We don't know what to expect from him.

"I'm probably most worried about the Purples. They've been pretty aggressive since Poe took over, but now they've got Talos locked up working on something special."

"Locked up?" she asked. "Like imprisoned?"

He shrugged. "Maybe. Maybe just tight security to keep us out of there."

"You know where?"

"Yeah. There's a warehouse about a block north of the Purple Line headquarters. You can tell which one by all the security outside it. Why?"

"Maybe someone should go take a look."

Tony shook his head. "You go blasting in there, you're going to start a gang war."

Cataclysm raised her eyebrows. "Isn't that what's happening anyhow?"

He looked thoughtful. Slowly he said, "No. It doesn't feel like that. At least not when I talk to Zoe. She's got her eyes on something else. Something bigger."

"All right. I'm just going to look around. I'll stay out of sight."